Activists oppose Sudanese official’s visit to USA

FM Ali Karti attending the annual prayers’ breakfast with US President Obama in Washington, and Ibrahim Ghandour plans to follow, provoked criticism by opposition figures.

The United States defended the visit of a Sudanese minister to Washington on Thursday, which drew criticism from American opposition figures and activists and some congressmen.

Foreign Minister Ali Karti attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast after travelling low-profile, with US President Barack Obama and other religious or political leaders. Rights activists protested the Foreign Minister's visit outside the Hilton. The US State Department told them that Karti was invited by the organisers of the event to thank him for his role in the release of Maryam Yahya Ibrahim, who was spared the death penalty after her conviction for apostasy in July 2014.

“US Senators Robert Casey and Roger Wicker, the prayer breakfast co-chairs, invited Minister Karti [to attend the event],” the spokesman for Sudan’s Foreign Ministry, Yousef El Kordofani, told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

In addition, the Assistant to the President of Sudan, Dr Ibrahim Ghandour, is expected to arrive in Washington next week. He is invited to the American administration on a number of important issues related to the bilateral relations between Sudan and the USa, the spokesman for the department informed the activists.

Marie Harf further told reporters on Thursday that Karti and Ghandour will hold discussions with US officials next week. “This visit and also the discussions with Foreign Minister Karti are a continuation of dialogue on a number of issues of longstanding concern to the US Government, with the Government of Sudan, as part of the engagement process.”

'Wrong visit by a wrong-doing person'

Yasir Arman, the Secretary-General of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), bashed Ghandour for planning to visit the USA.

In a press statement issued on Friday, Arman raised ten other critical questions to Ghandour, all coming down to his strong disapproval of the presidential aide's planned visit. He also expressed his gratitude to the activists who campaigned on a short notice when they heard that Sudan's Foreign Minister came to Washington, and that Ghandour plans to follow next week. Arman claimed that the latter is 'wavering' between visiting Washington, or putting off his visit altogether.

In his statement, he asks how Ghandour would visit 'the very country that has become a home to thousands of Sudanese who are victims of the genocide and war crimes of his own government the last 26 years and it is still continuing?' and "How could Ghandour take his coffee in Washington at the time he is denying access for humanitarian assistance in Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains?".

The fact that Ghandour has been denying the US Special Envoy Donald Booth a visa entry to Khartoum for more than a year, but was able himself to apply for an American visa, irritates the SPLM-N official.

Arman asks what message Ghandour's visit sends to the many women and girls who were reportedly raped by soldiers in Tabit on 31 October 2014, and the children who were killed or wounded by the government's aerial bombardments in Darfur, at a time that Sudan enforces a repressive campaign against media, opposition leaders and activists.

US Congressmen Jim McGovern and Tom Lantos, co-chairs of Lantos Human Rights Commission, also issued a statement criticising the invitations extended to the two officials.

Related article:

'Opportunity out of turmoil for Sudans': Sudan Envoy (6 March 2014)